Backpack to Osgood Tentsite and Hike Mount Madison

9.3 miles 4521 ft gain  - Loop Trail

Added by Leah Joy

Osgood tent-site offers a perfect opportunity for those looking to gain experience into backpacking. Equipped with platforms for tents and just 2.6 miles from the trailhead, it offers a good first stop of the day to ditch your tents, sleeping bag and sleeping pad, and then continue up to summit Mt. Madison, the 5th highest peak in the Presidential Mountain Range at 5367'.

Begin at Great Gulf Trailhead (located on the west side of NH Route 16, about 1.5 mi. south of the junction with Dolly Copp Rd.) which offers a large fee for parking lot. Bring cash and pay at the self service pay station then display your receipt in car. Walk towards the back of the parking lot to begin the trail and cross over the suspension bridge. Starting at an elevation of 1350' continue for 1.5 miles to the junction of Osgood Trail, continue onto Osgood trail for .8 miles before you reach the entrance to the tent site which sits at 2500'. Follow signs to walk in towards the site which is set back from the trail. Here, you will cross over a stream which is a great water source (you will want to treat your water). Explore the tent site and select your platform. Several bear boxes are provided as well as a central fire pit and pit toilet. Hint: Arrive early in the day to be sure to get a platform. Set up your tent, ditch the sleeping pad and bag and make your way back to the trail.

The first section has been easy but will soon become challenging. Continue up the Osgood trail for 2.5 miles with a gain of 2,833' which will lead you to the summit of Mount Madison. Mount Madison is known for its false peaks, about 11 of them on the way up. The rocky terrain above treeline is both fun and challenging. Enjoy the breathtaking views from the top, then descend the Mountain continuing on the Osgood trail to the Madison Spring Hut. A perfect spot to break for lunch, use the restroom and refill water in the hut (if hiking while they are open, June-Sept) The Hut also offers snacks and supplies for purchase. At this point you have completed 5.60 mi with a gain of 4073 ft and a loss of 619 ft.

From the hut hike .2 miles on the Star Lake Trail to the junction of Parapet Trail. Feel free to explore the lake on the designated trails, eventually make your way back the Parapet Trail. Continue on for .2 miles and reach the Madison Gulf Trail. Warning: This trail is very steep and not one of the more frequently hiked trails. The descent is technical and challenging.

Continue 2.6 miles down the Madison Gulf Trail for an elevation loss of 2554'. Arrive at the junction of Great Gulf Trail & continue on Great Gulf Trail for a very short distance where you will merge with the Osgood Cutoff Trail. Continue on the Osgood Cutoff Trail for .6 miles to return to the Osgood Tentsite.

This hike will more than likely take you all day, plan accordingly.

Enjoy an evening by the campfire, meet others at the tentsite & refuel with dinner. In the morning enjoy breakfast in the wilderness then head back to the parking lot (distance not included in mileage listed) and take a refreshing dunk in the river. Head into the town of Conway for pizza and brews at Flatbread Company, 25 min from trail head.

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Overall rating: 

Beautiful, but don't descend via Madison Gulf

This is a beautiful hike and Osgood is a pleasant place to camp, but don't descend via Madison Gulf. It's very steep and very technical, coming down was a nightmare. Multiple sections where you're scrambling up/ down boulders or rock faces, sometimes the trail is the stream. Could just as well reverse this loop, going up Madison Gulf and then coming down the less technical Osgood trail. Madison Gulf is gorgeous, though, if everyone is up for it definitely give it a go on your way up.

Bring Your Adventure Hat

There is nothing quite like backpacking in the Great Gulf Wilderness. The Osgood Tentsite was thoughtfully designed to provide backpackers with a peaceful and remote setting to rest their tired legs. Plenty of overflow tent sites, but arrive early for the primo real estate. Don't feed the bears!

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